Belfast Telegraph

Terrifying moment yobs raced stolen cars on one of city's main roads as crowds cheer

By CHRIS KILPATRICK

Hundreds of people looked on as brazen so-called joyriders rallied stolen cars on a public road, undeterred by a police patrol just yards away.

Crowds looked on as youths sped along the Falls Road in west Belfast on New Year's Eve.

Video footage posted on YouTube shows at least two cars performing high-speed 'donuts'.

A police Land Rover pursues one of the vehicles but then leaves after being struck by missiles.

The drivers continue to carry out the potentially fatal manoeuvres for several minutes before more police arrive.

Other motorists can be seen swerving to avoid the stolen vehicles. A police Land Rover then strikes one of the vehicles, to cheers from those watching. The dangerous stunt is believed to have been organised on Facebook.

Sinn Fein's Fra McCann described it as "nothing more than wanton vandalism and intimidation of a local community".

"We have seen several hundred young people travel from across Belfast to participate in what can only be described as an orgy of destruction," he said.

"It is my understanding that the whole escapade was organised through Facebook and text messaging, and those who organised this event can clearly be identified on social media.

"I would expect the PSNI to act on this immediately so that there is no recurrence of this type of behaviour and that the people who took part in this are brought before the courts."

Police yesterday confirmed investigations into the incident were ongoing. It is understood no arrests have been made yet.

A PSNI spokesman said officers were committed to tackling vehicle crime, which he claimed has fallen by 84% in the past decade in west Belfast.

"Behind statistics are many personal and individual stories," he said. "Being a victim of crime can have so many consequences."

He said Operation Echinus – launched 12 months ago to tackle crime and anti-social behaviour in the Lower Falls area – resulted in over 400 arrests.

"Incidents of crime have reduced by 19%, and incidents of anti-social behaviour have reduced by 17%, in comparison to the pre-Operation Echinus period, and reports of theft from and criminal damage to vehicles has reduced by over 14%," he added.

In a separate incident, the windows of eight parked cars were smashed at Academy Street in Belfast city centre just before 5am on New Year's Day.

Police believe a man wearing a grey hooded top and dark body-warmer caused the damage.

He made off in the direction of Dunbar Link.

One of the affected car owners said he faced a difficult journey home as a result of the damage.

"There's nothing stolen, but it's a real mess," Jim O'Doherty, who had travelled to Belfast to celebrate New Year, told the BBC.

"I'm going to have to travel back to Derry in the rain. I don't know if that bit of plastic I've put over the car door is going to hold."

QUOTES

"We have seen several hundred young people travel from across Belfast to participate in what can only be described as an orgy of destruction. It is my understanding that the whole escapade was organised through Facebook and text messaging, and those who organised this event can clearly be identified on social media. I would expect the PSNI to act on this immediately so that there is no recurrence of this type of behaviour and that the people who took part in this are brought before the courts."

Sinn Fein's Fra McCann (right)

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